How to Get the Most from a Photography Workshop

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Is a photography workshop for you? In this post guest contributer Fred Troilo shares some tips on how to get the most from photography workshops. Image by B Tal

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Whether you’re new to photography or a seasoned professional, you should give serious consideration to attending a workshop.

What Type of Photography Workshop is Best?

But what type of workshop you consider will depend on your primary interest of photography and your budget. There are one-day workshops designed for all types of photography, wedding and portrait being the most popular, and there are weeklong workshops designed for amateurs and pros alike.

There are advantages to both. The one-day workshops are especially good for learning a new technique or understanding the business of photography. A weeklong workshop, while significantly more expensive, has the benefit of establishing a connection with your classmates and it offers an opportunity to interface with the instructor on a one-on-one basis. This bond translates into energy, especially when you are working together as a group. This energy is what sparks creativity thus generating a better understanding of this thing called photography, which makes for a successful workshop!

If you decide on taking the plunge and spring for a weeklong workshop, such as those offered at Santa Fe (which I highly recommend) then there are a few things you’ll need to know before going.

Tips for Getting the Most from a Photography Workshop

Make sure your gear is in good working order. The last thing you want is to get to your class and find your camera or strobe just went on the fritz.

If you are bringing a new piece of gear, don’t use your time at the workshop trying to figure it out. Spend quality time BEFORE the workshop to learn everything about the device. I had a classmate at a recent workshop decide to pull out his new Nikon SB-900 for the first time when we were on location in the mountains of New Mexico. Needless to say, he wasted valuable time trying to figure it out; he also enlisted the instructor’s help, though briefly, to ask his assistance, which took time away from the rest of the class.

Secondly, bring extra batteries for your camera, flash, light meter – basically anything requiring a battery. Depending on the workshop you’re taking, you could be out in the field all day, if you only have one battery and it dies, then check that day off as a failure. It would be nice to have a laptop, but that will depend on the class you decide to take. In my case, we needed to take our photos from the day’s shoot, then spend the evening selecting the best five for a critique the following day, so a laptop was required.

If your class does require a laptop, then it will more than likely need specific software such as Photoshop and possibly Lightroom and like working with a new piece of equipment, working with new software can be frustrating so make sure you’re at least proficient in knowing how to pull images off your card, open and view them, then save them to another source. A couple hours of playing with the software will save your hours of banging your head on the hotel wall at 2:00 AM because you don’t know how to import your images into Photoshop.

Third, be fearless. I didn’t know what to expect my first workshop. What I learned the first night was expect to be busy and be ready to learn. You should approach the workshop like a sponge, be prepared to absorb as much as you can. Don’t worry about your capabilities or not knowing the lingo, or if your camera is not the top of the line model; by the end of the workshop you will walk away a new photographer. You’ll be armed with all this new knowledge and skill and bouncing off the walls to put what you’ve just learned into practice.

A week-long workshop can be long and tiring. My class visited three locations during the week, each presenting different challenges. We used the workshop’s lighting gear, which is the latest and greatest.

Fourth and finally, engage your instructors. The instructors make a workshop worth the price of admission. They are working professionals who take time out of their busy schedules to spend time teaching.

Final Thoughts on Photography Workshops

To sum up my workshop experience I would say it had to be one of the best weeks I’ve ever had as a photographer. Would I recommend it to another photographer? In a heartbeat! Times are tough, business may be slow, sometimes you wonder if you’ve made the right career choice, all questions I’m sure we’ve asked ourselves at some point. Well, if you want to reassure your career choice, rejuvenate your mind and enhance your capabilities, get yourself enrolled in a workshop. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a week in Santa Fe. It could be a one day workshop sponsored by your local camera shop, but no matter what it is, if you’re serious about taking the next step, do some research, find the right fit and get yourself enrolled. You’ll be glad you did.

About the Author: Fred Troilo is a corporate and freelance shooter from Philadelphia and a contributor to Photocrati’s Photography Blog. His specialty is location portraiture and lighting. See his work at fredtroilo.com.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Peter

    Excellent article… i have been thinking about taking a workshop myself. this article has helped me to take make the investment and know what to expect. thank you!

  • Sandra

    Any tips on finding quality workshops, especially affordable ones outside the big metro areas?

  • I took a phenomenal workshop last year – totally changed my perspective and outlook on telling stories and shooting. When I look back at all my expenses and investments definitely one of the wisest I’ve made. Great post!

    the workshop I took was called Roots [I’m actually volunteering there this year]. You can check out the website and details at http://www.rootsworkshop.com – taught by some absolutely incredible journalists

    best,

    eric

  • Sandra,
    I would recommend finding a workshop that complements your experience yet offers a challenge. Not sure where you are located but there are a bunch being offered across the U.S. Joe McNally for example, is offering eight, one day seminars on lighting, you just need to travel to NYC.
    Good luck,
    Fred

  • Carl

    I would really appreciate recommendation/list of workshops “findable” for July 2009. I will be in Florida during the period but would be willing to travel …
    Thanks

  • Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a short, but extremely informative workshop. It was the best 5 hours I ever spent! I learned so much. It changed the way I approach certain sessions and it has paid off.

  • Fred has excellent points!

    I often see photographers trying to improve by investing in equipment. Workshops may not be as sexy as a new lens or body but investing in learning will get most people further ahead.

    For more on equipment vs learning see:
    http://www.harrynowell.com/blog/2009/01/04/189-equipment-vs-instruction/

    Thanks Darren and Fred!

  • Allison Godwin

    I have enrolled myself to attend a weekend workshop later this year in Canberra (Australia) by jinkyart . Thank you for the wonderful tips , I will certainly take them onboard and use them. You have really made even more excited about attending after reading this article and I’m ready to absorb all this new info. Thanks

  • photokunstler

    Thanks for the post, Fred! I was just telling a friend how much I wish we could spent a day shooting in Philly.
    And thanks for the url, Harry. You’re down the street from me, and I have heard your workshops are WONDERFUL!!

  • John

    Can I add one more? Don’t be “that guy”. You know the guy I’m talking about, the one who comes to the workshop and say” well what *I* would do is this”. And goes to great lengths to show his or her style or setup. If I wanted to learn from “that guy”, I’d take one of their classes. It goes back to being a sponge and ready to soak up all the info that is thrown at you. If you don’t like it or disagree, then toss is away afterward. That doesn’t mean, don’t point out a tip you might have (briefly) or ask a question. It means don’t take up the classes time thinking you know more than the instructor.

    My 2 cents.

  • Michele

    Excellent article but I have one more tip. It may sound completely moronic but DON’T FORGET a pen and notepad! Especailly if you want to remember everything that was discussed before you head out to snap photos. I keep 4×6 index cards of tips/settings in my camera bag incase I’m on location and have a brain fart about what ISO or shutter speed I should be using for this soccer match, etc. A pen and paper can be invaluable!

  • Jonno

    I was wondering if anyone knew of any good photography courses to attend in Australia. (More specifically in NSW if possible.)
    Darren, Thanks for this article! – Are you able to help me?
    Thanks all for your time.

Some Older Comments

  • Jonno July 14, 2009 03:54 pm

    I was wondering if anyone knew of any good photography courses to attend in Australia. (More specifically in NSW if possible.)
    Darren, Thanks for this article! - Are you able to help me?
    Thanks all for your time.

  • Michele June 13, 2009 08:25 am

    Excellent article but I have one more tip. It may sound completely moronic but DON'T FORGET a pen and notepad! Especailly if you want to remember everything that was discussed before you head out to snap photos. I keep 4x6 index cards of tips/settings in my camera bag incase I'm on location and have a brain fart about what ISO or shutter speed I should be using for this soccer match, etc. A pen and paper can be invaluable!

  • John June 9, 2009 11:41 pm

    Can I add one more? Don't be "that guy". You know the guy I'm talking about, the one who comes to the workshop and say" well what *I* would do is this". And goes to great lengths to show his or her style or setup. If I wanted to learn from "that guy", I'd take one of their classes. It goes back to being a sponge and ready to soak up all the info that is thrown at you. If you don't like it or disagree, then toss is away afterward. That doesn't mean, don't point out a tip you might have (briefly) or ask a question. It means don't take up the classes time thinking you know more than the instructor.

    My 2 cents.

  • photokunstler June 6, 2009 11:28 am

    Thanks for the post, Fred! I was just telling a friend how much I wish we could spent a day shooting in Philly.
    And thanks for the url, Harry. You're down the street from me, and I have heard your workshops are WONDERFUL!!

  • Allison Godwin June 6, 2009 09:32 am

    I have enrolled myself to attend a weekend workshop later this year in Canberra (Australia) by jinkyart . Thank you for the wonderful tips , I will certainly take them onboard and use them. You have really made even more excited about attending after reading this article and I'm ready to absorb all this new info. Thanks

  • Harry Nowell June 6, 2009 02:07 am

    Fred has excellent points!

    I often see photographers trying to improve by investing in equipment. Workshops may not be as sexy as a new lens or body but investing in learning will get most people further ahead.

    For more on equipment vs learning see:
    www.harrynowell.com/blog/2009/01/04/189-equipment-vs-instruction/

    Thanks Darren and Fred!

  • Joanie June 5, 2009 09:04 pm

    Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a short, but extremely informative workshop. It was the best 5 hours I ever spent! I learned so much. It changed the way I approach certain sessions and it has paid off.

  • Carl June 5, 2009 05:53 pm

    I would really appreciate recommendation/list of workshops "findable" for July 2009. I will be in Florida during the period but would be willing to travel ...
    Thanks

  • Fred Troilo June 4, 2009 10:57 am

    Sandra,
    I would recommend finding a workshop that complements your experience yet offers a challenge. Not sure where you are located but there are a bunch being offered across the U.S. Joe McNally for example, is offering eight, one day seminars on lighting, you just need to travel to NYC.
    Good luck,
    Fred

  • eric laurits June 4, 2009 07:17 am

    I took a phenomenal workshop last year - totally changed my perspective and outlook on telling stories and shooting. When I look back at all my expenses and investments definitely one of the wisest I've made. Great post!

    the workshop I took was called Roots [I'm actually volunteering there this year]. You can check out the website and details at http://www.rootsworkshop.com - taught by some absolutely incredible journalists

    best,

    eric

  • Sandra June 4, 2009 04:46 am

    Any tips on finding quality workshops, especially affordable ones outside the big metro areas?

  • Peter June 4, 2009 02:36 am

    Excellent article... i have been thinking about taking a workshop myself. this article has helped me to take make the investment and know what to expect. thank you!

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